CEO Brian Slagel put out Metallica's first-ever recording on the 'Metal Massacre' comp
Label CEO and metal fanatic Brian Slagel started the legendary Metal Blade Records in his mother's garage back in 1982. Now, 30 years later, he's not only accrued a real office and staff, but an assortment of awesome behind-the-scenes stories that'll make any metal fan salivate.
When we sat down with Slagel, he told us how his friendship with a teenage Danish immigrant named Lars Ulrich—which started because of a Saxon T-shirt Ulrich was wearing—brought about the birth of Metallica.
"I was friends with Lars Ulrich before there was even a Metallica," Slagel recalls. "He knew I was putting together this Metal Massacre compilation, so he called me up and asked, 'Hey, if I put together a band, can I be on the album?' I said sure. It was just him and James [Hetfield]. They had been jamming for a while but they never really did anything because they were just two guys. So they recorded a track 'Hit the Lights' and the rest is history."
Slagel also talks about Ulrich's insatiable, competitive appetite for metal when it was still an underground, niche movement. "It was really hard to find New Wave of British Heavy Metal stuff back then," Slagel says. "So we'd drive an hour and a half to a record store. I'd park the car and Lars would be out of the backseat and into the store looking at the metal section before I could even open my door. Because sometimes there would be only one copy of something in there and he had to get it. It was fun. We've been really good friends ever since."
Despite their friendship—and the fact that he released Metallica's first recording—Slagel never signed the band. "If I had had 10,000 in 1982 or '83, sure, I could have put out the first Metallica record. But I had no money," Slagel says. "So that's a bummer." Still, Slagel did discover some of the biggest names in metal: Cannibal Corpse, As I Lay Dying, Gwar, and perhaps most impressively, he produced and released Slayer's first two albums.
"The only one I did screw up on and miss out on was Guns N' Roses," Slagel admits. "People were like, You gotta see this band!' I was like, 'Eh, I don't know, they kinda look like a glam band, I'm not into that.' Then I heard Appetite for Destruction and fell off my chair, thinking, 'This thing is amazing?! How did I miss out on this?"
Watch the video above for more about Slagel's enviable three-decade career running Metal Blade Records and helping shape the direction of the genre.